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The California Indoor Mask Mandate’s Return is Nonsensical

Brandon Ristoff

Policy Analyst

Brandon Ristoff
December 15, 2021

The California Indoor Mask Mandate’s Return is Nonsensical

Planning to see some smiles while carrying out last-minute shopping? Forget about it.

The California Department of Public Health (CDPH) indoor mask mandate has reinstated the indoor mask mandate today for all Californians, regardless of vaccination status, from December 15 through January 15 (and possibly longer).

In a December 13 press release, CDPH said, “Since Thanksgiving, the statewide seven-day average case rate has increased by almost half (47%) and hospitalizations have increased by 14%. In response to the increase in cases and hospitalizations, and to slow the spread of both Delta and the highly transmissible Omicron variant, CDPH has issued updated guidance to curb the spread of COVID-19 and its variants.”

Source: California Department of Public Health


Source: COVID Act Now

While the CDPH focuses on the rise in COVID cases since Thanksgiving, the department does not mention that cases have been trending downwards since the Delta wave peak in late August and early September. Notably, the indoor mask mandate did not return during that Delta wave statewide, perhaps because Governor Newsom was staring down a recall campaign to remove him from office.

We are in a far better position than we were this time last year, when cases, hospitalizations, and deaths were magnitudes higher than now.

Same goes for the department’s other key piece of evidence – the dangers it says are posed by the Delta and Omicron variants. The Delta variant wave has been declining for a while now. It is also now generally understood the Omicron variant, while more infectious, is less deadly than the Delta variant, and the two-dose vaccine still provides protection against hospitalizations and severe cases, with some additional protection from a booster if you so choose.



Source: California Department of Public Health

Another thing to consider: The demonstrated failure of recent COVID restrictions in our state. Take a look at Los Angeles County and its next door neighbor Orange County. Los Angeles reinstated an indoor mask mandate in July and has instituted proof of vaccination to enter certain businesses. Orange County refused to follow suit.

Despite those different public health strategies, the counties reported the same case rates and vaccination rates throughout the Delta wave, and currently Orange County has the tenth-lowest case rate of all California counties in the state. Los Angeles County has the 26th lowest case rate.

Politicians like to think they control the spread of the virus through mask mandates and proof of vaccination to enter businesses, but we have seen over the past two years that they do not. Florida, well-known for its lack of COVID restrictions, currently has one of the lowest case rates of any state.

California would join fellow fear-mongering states such as Washington, Oregon, New Mexico, Illinois, New York, and Hawaii as the only states with an indoor mask mandate for all. (Some cities in other states may still have an indoor mask mandate in place.) While other states are returning to normal, we are going backwards.

While some states, like Colorado, have ended the COVID emergency, California panicked and reintroduced the indoor mask mandate without considering what we learned before. Our economy is still not back to normal, and our unemployment rate is the highest in the country because we keep living in fear.

We ask that the indoor mask mandate be removed and to bring California back to the normalcy we have been waiting for far too long.


Brandon Ristoff is a policy analyst at the California Policy Center.

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